Other than holding a sign that says “Will Hit For Playoff Share,” Ben Zobrist can’t make it any more obvious that he’s willing and able to help a contender down the stretch.
On Saturday, the second baseman-left fielder-designated hitter had three more hits — a single, double and triple — which meant he had hit for the cycle against the Giants in the first two games of the Bay Bridge Series.
“It was great,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the performance. “You could see early on he was tracking the ball and seeing it as well as he ever has.”
That’s manager-speak for “The guy is phenomenal — and you can have him! Now will you make us an offer we can’t refuse?!”
Multiple sources say the Giants are among the slew of teams that like Zobrist a lot, but history says there’s almost no chance they’ll get him. The A’s and Giants haven’t completed a trade since the 1990 season. Oh, the two sides do talk, but their track record is more than a bit strange. The Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers make trades every so often. So do the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, the New York Mets and Yankees.
So why not the A’s and the Giants then?
Could be because the A’s and Giants have feuded over territorial rights in Silicon Valley for years, and unless one can flog the other, all deals are off.
One reason the A’s are in Oakland is because the Giants won’t budge on the issue. The A’s claim the territory should have been up for grabs after a failed Giants stadium ballot measure failed two decades ago. The Giants contend A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff agreed to the rights when they purchased the team 10 years ago. As they said in a statement last fall, the agreement has been “explicitly re-affirmed by Major League Baseball on four separate occasions.”
So if the A’s can’t negotiate with San Jose, can you blame them if they are reluctant to deal with the Giants as well?
Even if the Bay Area clubs were buddy-buddy, the Giants don’t have enough to make a Zobrist trade work, anyway. Their farm system isn’t barren, but it’s hardly loaded at the same time. The Cubs, Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals also have expressed interest in Zobrist recently, and most have more to offer than the Champs right now.
There’s a premium on proven switch-hitters who can play multiple positions, which explains why Zobrist has generated so much interest lately. For the next few hours at least, there’s no reason for A’s general manger Billy Beane to accept anything less than a package that includes at least two high-end prospects. And if the Giants are involved, you can bet the price is higher yet.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Check that. It was only last spring when the A’s sent no-tool utility-man Will Ferrell to the Giants in return for a gag to be named later as part of a fundraising project.
So maybe we shouldn’t give up on that Zobrist deal just yet.
CROWN JEWEL: A’s outfielder Billy Burns played despite a testicular contusion, and Balls appreciated that more than anyone.
“I mean, I don’t know how you treat that,” Melvin deadpanned.
Very carefully, of course.
“It was weird to be in a major league stadium knowing that everyone was thinking about your private parts,” said Burns, able to laugh about the whole thing afterward.
REGGIE WHIFFS AGAIN: It’s hard to find trouble in Cooperstown, N.Y., which still can pass for a Norman Rockwell scene after all these years, but leave it to former A’s egomaniac Reggie Jackson to discover it.
On Friday, Jackson went off after a few autograph hounds went back for seconds outside a local restaurant. According to one report, Jackson had bolted a Hall of Fame get-together to have dinner with friends. In a video released on TMZ, Jackson confronts one patron and calls him a 10-letter word. (Insert imagination here.) Another shows Mr. October in the face of a security guard.
“You guys disperse the [mothers],” Jackson screamed. “Tell them to get the (heck) away from me! I need a [bleeping] bodyguard to keep the [bleepers] away.”
The next day Jackson admitted to profanity but added, “ As far as anybody touching someone, that did not come from me.”
“I was upset because it was kind of an ‘over and over’ thing,” Jackson went on to say. “It’s 10 o’clock at night — it’s time to go home. Leave us alone. So the words got heated.”
And Balls can’t help but think that Billy Martin is smiling down there somewhere.